Josh McDaniels and Co. sent a resounding message to Raider Nation this past weekend. A good old-fashioned beatdown of the San Francisco 49ers got the 2023 football season off to a hot start. Granted, it is only the first game of the preseason; this is true. But even with most starters sitting out — the Raiders still asserted their dominance all afternoon.
Rookie quarterback Aidan O’Connell led an efficient passing attack for Vegas, only tossing three incompletions on the day. But two of those ‘misses’ weren’t actually ‘misses’. Fellow first-year player Tre Tucker got charged with a couple of brutal drops. The other incompletion was also on-target, but the defender simply made a great play; nothing you can do about that.
Josh McDaniels Sets The Table For The Raiders Offense
O’Connell flashed poise and composure that few peers his age can match. While the Purdue product deserves his fair share of credit, we mustn’t forget who is engineering the offense. McDaniels, for all his faults, has been a brilliant offensive mind for much of the past two decades. And on Sunday, he proved his value to the franchise by crafting an ironclad game plan.
The Raiders head coach got asked about O’Connell and whether the extended playing time was the plan all week. “Brian [Hoyer] and Jimmy [Garoppolo] really got a lot of work this week. I mentioned a number of times, we were trying to kind of look at in three days here,” McDaniels replied.
“This was really kind of the vision I had. Try to get those guys a lot of work in practice, you know, against some guys that probably weren’t going to play on their side of the ball also in the game.”
McDaniels elaborated further by saying, “There was a lot of firsts today for [O’Connell]. First play call. First feeling pressure in the pocket. First two-minute drive. First halftime. I thought he generally handled himself well for the first opportunity. He’s a sponge; he soaks it all in. He’ll take every opportunity to improve.”
Jimmy Garoppolo or Aidan O’Connell? A Good Problem To Have For Vegas
Veteran Jimmy Garoppolo will open the season as the team’s QB1 but expect O’Connell to be the next man up in the event of an injury to the incumbent starter. Either way, McDaniels has a clear vision for this offense, this cannot be denied. Sunday provided optimism that either quarterback can win games when the regular season opens if necessary.
It is fair to point out how many impact players sat out for the Niners. But you cannot ignore the Raiders leaving most of their starters on the sideline, too. Those absences include the likes of Davante Adams, Josh Jacobs, and Kolton Miller on offense. Things might get spicy in the desert once McDaniels has his full allotment of weapons available.
Even more impressive than the offensive outburst was the intensity on defense. McDaniels has spoken ad nauseam about wanting more energy from that side of the ball; he got it in waves vs. San Francisco.
The Infectious Energy On Defense Makes McDaniels Proud
Two sacks on the opening drive set the tone for the game, as the Silver and Black would finish with four in total. A forced fumble by Curtis Bolton and a timely interception by Sam Webb represented the two takeaways of the day. Although it could have been even better if Duke Shelley didn’t botch a would-be turnover in the end zone.
The way the defense flew around the field and kept its foot on the gas is more important than any statistic. “I thought we had good effort and competitiveness all the way through,” McDaniels said, holding back a smile.
The follow-up question highlighted the emphasis surrounding pressuring the quarterback and getting hands on the ball this offseason. “That’s what we have been trying to work on it for. I thought we actually had more opportunities. We got our hands on more footballs than what we ended up coming up with,” the Raiders leader responded.
The other keyword of the offseason has been “consistency”. On Sunday, McDaniels could see the vision coming to form. “I think they understand the way we feel about playing and how we see winning. I felt it on the sideline from a number of the guys that weren’t playing. Just how locked into the situation they were,” McDaniels said with a strong sense of pride.
“That’s all you can ask for. We have a group that I think is, again, being led the right way by the leaders in the locker room. I know we are practicing the way we want to practice. And hopefully, we will continue to try to improve.”
Enough Talk; Time For Action From Josh McDaniels
It is easy to talk the talk. It’s not exactly a stroll in the park to walk the walk, though. Still, McDaniels is finally seeing his blueprint come to fruition. He has faced considerable pushback since taking over and gutting a roster fresh off a postseason berth. The second-time head coach still has plenty to prove, but now he has a roster full of “his” guys to do it.
The excuses are dwindling. It is time to make good on all these concepts and ideas. Otherwise, Raiders fans will grow tired of the schtick. More days like Sunday will make it easier for the Raider Nation faithful to buy in.
If it is any consolation, it seems as though the locker room is all in already. The ball is in your court now, Josh McDaniels.
*Top Photo: John Locher/AP Photos